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Art, Good Art, & Modern Art - if you can't be witty, then at least be bombastic — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
kyle cassidy

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Art, Good Art, & Modern Art [Apr. 13th, 2011|07:26 pm]
kyle cassidy
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A reader writes:


Hi there Kyle hope all is well,
I'm on spring break this week and I came across two tickets for the museum of modern art and I think my father and I are going to go this Wednesday. I was wondering, in your opinion would it be worth it to go? The last time I was there I got really upset by seeing a piece of paper ripped out of a children's coloring book with the picture half colored in, and it was on display. Seeing things like that when there are artists out there that make beautiful paintings and take great photos makes me angry. I mean come on, anyone can do that. I've been plunging myself into the art world lately because I am hoping to bring this interest into my college life starting next year. Please let me know your opinion on this topic! Thanks!!


I think this is a really important question so I wanted to answer it here where people can read and chime in with their own thoughts.

In a broad sense, art was relatively representational from the Venus of Willendorf on. Artists made things that looked like other things and some of them were extremely good at it; they spent a lot of time making their thing look like other things, and that is a lot of people's concept of what art is. You get an easel and a canvas and you smear paint on it until it looks like a bridge or a person and the more it looks like a bridge or a person the better it is. Some time in the early 1900's Marcel Duchamp, who was a French artist, (though I think he was living in New York) showed up at a gallery with a urinal he bought from a plumbing supply store. He put it on a pedestal and said "here's my art" and it was very clever at the time because suddenly art wasn't just about art, his art wasn't about toilets, but rather it was about the art world, about something very ephemeral -- the idea that some people get to say what's good and what's art. "If I'm an artist," he reasoned, "and I say this is art, then it's art." And some people got very upset, and other people stood in the gallery looking at it and thinking very deeply about what Duchamp was trying to say and the art world split apart into a million pieces with lots of people exploring new ideas of "what is art"? Though I think, very sadly, it created a much larger group of people who thought "oh, wait, i can just drag something crazy into this gallery and give it a pretentious title and it'll be art!"

There were people who came after Duchamp like Andy Warhol who's art, I think, wasn't so much his art, but his life -- like an iceberg a lot of what was going on was beneath the water and as such, it's impossible to look at one of his pieces alone and try and decide if he was a good artist or a bad one.

I'm not a huge fan of most modern art and I think in MOMA you'll probably see a lot of work that leaves you baffled -- piles of carpets or nails in blocks of wood or great mangled piles of coat hangers jutting from vats of tar. I often tend to shrug my shoulders at it and move on. But there are two big reasons that you should go to MOMA. The first is because if you're going to be an artist, you'll need to have a voice in this conversation, you'll need to know what your peers are doing, and what you like, and what you don't like, and you'll need to start to formulate your opinion on why you like or dislike something, and you'll need to understand how to look at art and how to see the parts of it that are off the page, the parts that are the artist saying, as Duchamp was, "here's what's wrong about the art world right now". The second reason that you should go to MOMA is because Starry Night is there and you can stand nine inches away from it and stare at the canvas and feel the world go quiet behind you and you'll never ever ever see a print of that painting that looks anything like the original -- and you can look at that painting and see that an artists job isn't to recreate the world, but to reflect it in the mirror of their mind.

Hope this helps.




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Comments:
[User Picture]From: didjiman
2011-04-13 11:39 pm (UTC)
Hate to be a nitpicking asshat for such succinct intro to the subject, but it's probably whose rather than who's.

I have billions of "Richardism" and sound like a Fobby, but something just drives me nuts :-)
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[User Picture]From: angelamermaid
2011-04-13 11:59 pm (UTC)
Okay, now I want to go to the MOMA.
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[User Picture]From: tsarina
2011-04-14 12:08 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting this.
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[User Picture]From: blpurdom
2011-04-14 01:37 am (UTC)
Well said. Our kids had a similar reaction when we were at the Guggenheim the first time we took them and they saw these things that just looked like oversized Jenga pieces stacked up. Their dad and I just shrugged over it, enjoying the fact that we were IN a work of art, besides there being a lot of other things to see. A couple of years later they responded more positively to the Dali show at PMA but they could possibly still have the same reaction to that coloring book page as the reader you quoted.
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[User Picture]From: niamh_sage
2011-04-14 06:11 am (UTC)
If you remember the name of the artist, I'd love to know it. That sounds amazing.
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[User Picture]From: framlingem
2011-04-14 10:31 am (UTC)
it looks different from different angles, because the paint is actually a very low relief, it is actually 3D.

I did not know that! That's fascinating.
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[User Picture]From: ehowton
2011-04-14 01:51 am (UTC)
Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: farbel
2011-04-14 02:12 am (UTC)
"If you like it, it's good art. If you buy it, it's valuable art." - Me
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[User Picture]From: lentower
2011-04-14 02:17 am (UTC)
originals are almost always better than reproductions
(some artists design originals,
so the reproductions will be better
)

other reasons to go to MoMA:

* 3 panels of Monet's Water Lilies are there.
How does he show sky, surface, under water,
and bottom as one gazes at the pond???

Let alone his technique for everything else.

* They have Rothko's.

Once you learn to experience them,
you'll understand pure emotion
(each of his canvases radiates or
sucks in a different one)

I thought the abstract expressionists, were just
an art fad, until I show eight Rothko's together.
and was blown off my feet. One of his darkest drained my soul,
but I then realized, I should look again at the other seven.
Several hours later, they kicked me out.

* Abby's Sculpture Garden.
Most modern art sculpture is not crap.
(Pray for a dry day.
They close it when the marble
tiles get wet)

* MoMA's campus of buildings is
amazing architecture, that is crap in spots.
By some of the greats of 20th Century architecture.

MoMA also has a lot to teach about how museums should and
shouldn't show art.

* The more time you spend with modern art,
the more you'll get out of it.

Some of it is crap. But the best is among
the best there is.
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[User Picture]From: briansiano
2011-04-14 02:18 am (UTC)
Couldn't agree more. Here are a few embellishments.

In the 20th century, two things emerged in American art. The first was a focus on form, shape and color. While there was art that was representational in the classic sense, art become more of an aesthetic experience. So we have Picasso, Mark Rothko, Georgia O'Keefe, and more. There is considerable skill in creating something that _seems_ simple, but which also evokes a deep and moving experience in the viewer. But it's a rare talent. Look for the best of these, and cultivate the ability to tell what's worthwhile and what's merely simple.

The second was that art started playing to an insular audience of other artists, collectors, critics, and aesthetes, and art that was "about art" became art about the "art world." (Kyle's mention of Marcel Duchamp is a terrific example of how this got started.) This doesn't mean that this art is bad, or not worth considering, and some of it's really wonderful. But it has given a lot of people the idea that anything can "be art." So the job here is to cultivate your taste. If you like something, or find something good in it, that's terrific. But if you look at art and think it's not very good, then even _more_ power to you, because that cultivates an independence of character.

So if you go to MOMA and think it's all pretty much bullshit, that's yer goddamn right. Having that opinion shouldn't keep you from doing the art that you want to do.

Don't forget to look outside of the "art world," because that's basically a term for "regional New York City art." If you want art that shows craft, independence, wit, and considerable skill, there's no end of it in commercial art and design. The Design section of your local bookstore probably has huge books that are catalogs of magazine illustrators' work. You'll find a tremendous amount of skill, a wide range of unique ad personal art styles, and no end of inspiration. I'd stack Chris Ware or Michael Whelan or Chip Kidd up against "artists" like Barbara Kruger any day.
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[User Picture]From: tau
2011-04-14 02:59 am (UTC)
Art that generally leaves you shrugging is "conceptual art" - and as such, is best appreciated when you know the reasoning behind its creation. Next time you're left puzzled or upset, take the time to look it up online when you get home - you may find the concept that inspired it to be really terrific.
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[User Picture]From: katelynhertel
2011-04-14 04:42 am (UTC)
Hey there,
So I did end up going but I chose to enter the museum with a different sort of mentality. I was open to it all and just as you said, I saw many interesting and yet odd pieces of art. I sat there with my dad in front of hundreds of different sculptures starting the conversation off the same way each time, "What do you think was on his/her mind when they made this? Do you think this could represent that?" It was a fascinating experience and I have a new appreciation for this art now. So even though I read this post after I had already gone to MOMA I basically did what you said anyway! And you were right, totally worth it... rain and all.
-Katie
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[User Picture]From: kuroshii
2011-04-15 04:06 am (UTC)
yay!


(this NY expat was pleased to hear about your experience)
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[User Picture]From: niamh_sage
2011-04-14 06:15 am (UTC)
Great answer, Kyle. Also the comments to the post.

I'm thinking of submitting the interior of my son's closet as a work of art. Actually, it's more a work of AARRRRGGGHHHt.
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[User Picture]From: fyr3lyt3
2011-04-14 08:38 am (UTC)
Duchamp is, to me, part of the beginning of a sort of modern art that is almost more performance and context then a 'piece of art'. Duchamp put a urinal in a gallery to make a point of about context and perception and the art world as he saw it - and that theme has become a running one in a lot of modern art. Its more often about the concept, idea, and presentation then it is about the object itself. Its work that's more often meant to be thought about and debated rather then aesthetically enjoyed. So if you hate it, or you disagree with what it represents, you're still essentially participating in its reason for existing.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2011-04-14 09:39 am (UTC)
"In a broad sense, art was relatively representational from the Venus of Willendorf on. "

This bit kind of bothers me, because it's only certain cultures. Aboriginal tribes in Australia have been making art that certainly represents stuff but is not actually representational for a very long time. (I mean, an outsider can't look at those dots and say "Oh yeah, that's the mountain over here" - you have to be taught to read it.) Islamic art has been abstract for a thousand years. There's also a lot of Asian art that *is* representational but where the representations are as far from the original as Warhol's painings are from Monroe's actual face, everything from cartoony geishas to misty forests reminiscent of the Impressionists.

Also, another thing I think is way cool at MOMA is their design exhibit - I hope they still have it!
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[User Picture]From: dash_aitch
2011-04-14 11:42 am (UTC)
Perhaps this is why I like street art so much. It's a very tough gallery and if your work doesn't have merit it gets painted over by another artist.

Even if your work has merit, it might get painted over by a council guy.

So street art has some of the purest artwork, pieces created by someone so driven to express an idea they risk prosecution and ridicule to do it.

Also, sometimes I choose to appreciate modern art on a purely aesthetic basis. Not everything needs justification :)
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[User Picture]From: prolix_yourword
2011-04-14 05:04 pm (UTC)
I agree on both counts. It's the transience of street art that makes it transcend. Someone can make a gorgeous piece of artwork and eventually, it will come down or me painted over or otherwise removed so what matters is not only the beauty of the piece but also the transience of it. It's like performance art, or theatre...even when recreated, it can never be the same twice and you either experience it in that moment or not at all.

And sometimes modern art is very beautiful, aesthetically, and that's when, to me, it feels like art and not just silliness.
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[User Picture]From: ceciskittle
2011-04-14 04:06 pm (UTC)
I think that is an excellent synopsis. That is all I have to add.
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[User Picture]From: prolix_yourword
2011-04-14 05:01 pm (UTC)
"...an artists job isn't to recreate the world, but to reflect it in the mirror of their mind."

Well. Said.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-14 06:30 pm (UTC)
Loved this entry and will crosspost it. I love contemporary and Modern Art, hell, I love ART. I love it in all it's forms and while some things leave me cold others engage my mind in ways that are awesome and full of intelligence and pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Some things are "pretty", some things might indeed make me snicker but even then it initiates a larger thought process about what Art is and how it moves us.

I will be at MassMOCA for a few days next week checking out new work, seeing a performance and generally soaking up new ideas and experiences and revisiting work that always makes me happy (Sol Lewitt) for no other reason than it's simplicity and precision calms my monkey brain.

Anyway, thanks for articulating all this so well.
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[User Picture]From: Amysue Chase
2011-04-14 06:30 pm (UTC)
Sorry didn't mean to me anon.

amysue
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[User Picture]From: harper_knight
2011-04-15 01:08 am (UTC)
"and you can look at that painting and see that an artists job isn't to recreate the world, but to reflect it in the mirror of their mind."

That is it exactly. Well said.
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From: dageagee
2011-04-15 03:57 am (UTC)
Thanks for the information. I think that you should wash your face at least 3 to 4 times a day. You’ll be surprised how much better your face will look.

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[User Picture]From: gunthar
2011-04-15 04:47 pm (UTC)
I wish there were some organization out there that reviewed art books and gave out some kind of seal of approval for books with reproductions as good as the originals.

Or maybe I just need a list of artists that are hopeless of reproduction. I rather suspect that such a list would be too unwieldy to be practical.
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[User Picture]From: howlokitty
2011-04-15 07:04 pm (UTC)
I know I'm a little late coming to the thread, but I feel like putting in my two cents. I think that whatever an individual enjoys and wants is art to them. Before I moved, I had a painting made by a friend that consisted of paint covering textured things like styrofoam peanuts and potato chips. There are many modern art pieces I think are exciting and would love to have, and many traditional art pieces that leave me cold. I'm very much into the notion that an art collector should collect the things she loves instead of collecting what will appreciate in value. My boss collects New Orleans outsider art, and she said that a bunch of paintings she bought for a few hundred dollars each, what some people would say wasn't really art at all (abstract paintings) are now worth thirty thousand dollars each, and she says she will never sell them. If someone wads up a piece of used tissue and calls it art, and someone else grabs it up because it resonates with them somehow, I'm all for it.
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